The Red carpet events, exhibitions and seminars of the 2018 edition of African Fashion Week Nigeria (AFWN2018) commenced today in high gear at the Lagoon, Victoria Island, Lagos, with a call to entrepreneurs and fashion designers to take their share of the growing $4.5 billion fashion industry.
This year’s program has the theme ” African Heritage Arise” ( #AfricanHeritageArise ).
The panel of discussants on the Business of Fashion Roundtable of the event which included Uche Nnaji of Ouch, Joshua Ogbimi of Beckley Consulting, Abasiama Idaresit of Wildfusions, Mimi Hassan of Kayaan Productions and Bolaji Oluwasola of Bank of Industry said that the value of business and opportunities in the sector could go over $30 billion in size if and when well harnessed. Emphasizing the point, they drew attention to AGOA which many Nigerian fashion makers failed to take advantage of and to the Italian Leather Industry that depends on hides and skin from Kano, yet Nigerians are not harnessing the opportunities in the leather Industry in spite of the fact that we have comparative advantage with the raw materials.
According to Uche Nnaji of Ouch, there are opportunities in production, marketing, distribution, raw materials and Services. He threw a challenge for practitioners in the sector to come together and create a Fashion Council and a Fashion Park in Nigeria. The Fashion Council will among other things work to ensure that Fashion Designers get value for their money while also ensuring that they get endorsements from Corporate Organizations just the same way that Comedians and Musicians get endorsements. According to him, “for now the designers are not making enough money for their creativity owing to the non existence of such a council”.
Speaking further he said that “Fashion Designers need to collaborate among themselves as there is more than enough room for all”. In this wise, there is need, he said, for there to be a Fashion Park. Such a park will enable specialization among the fashion industry entrepreneurs in such areas as zippers production, button hole, embroidery, etc. “This will attract further investments into the sector both locally and internationally, improve quality and standards while reducing the operating cost of designers and producers”, Uche Nnaji concluded.
The panel regretted the situation where everyone simply wants to be a designer leaving out the other essential aspects of the fashion value chain. “Branch out to other aspects of the fashion ecosystem to where it is not crowded and create a blue ocean strategy for yourselves,” they advised.
To succeed in the sector, Abasiama Idaresit, CEO of Wildfusions, advised entrepreneurs to pursue their passion, work on building their fashion brand with clear focus of who their customers are and who they want to design for and to delay gratification to enable them build up capital.
Bolaji Oluwasola of Bank of Industry in her contribution said that in realization of the opportunities in the sector, the BOI set up the N1 billion revolving Fashion Industry Fund dedicated to SMEs. Besides this, she said that there is another N22 billion fund that large enterprises can access of which organizations like Ruff “n” Tumble and Sam and Sarah Garments have accessed. The BOI Fashion Industry Fund, she said, has tenure of 3 – 5 years, with 6-12 months moratorium and is at a single digit interest rate. She advised fashion entrepreneurs to take advantage of the fund but should come ready with their business plan, financials and statement of accounts from their bankers.
“If you are unable to access funding, it is more of your problem than a problem of the banks. This is so because the major income earner for banks is lending and they must lend to make profit. But the banks have an obligation to protect the depositor’s funds and comply with regulatory provisions. So they will not just give you funds unless you are able to prove that you are organized, have corporate governance in place and that your business can generate sufficient cash flow and profits to repay the loan”.
At the exhibition stand were fashion designer from Nigeria and from other African countries. Two of such exhibitors are Nancy Seino of Aju B Fashions from Yaounde, Cameroon and Akinpelumi Oluwatimilehin of Esteem Beauty. Others are Inspire by Pine Tree and Africoncept Collections.
Aju B Fashions from Yaounde Cameroon started off two years ago and is taking advantage of the African Fashion Week Nigeria to extend her market into Nigerian and build relationships and partners. The fashion line includes uniquely cool African designs carefully cut and married with African fabrics, creating Afrocentric hues mimicking the continents multicultural facets, culture, flora and fauna for both Male and Female.
Akinpelumi Oluwatimilehin of Esteem Beauty is a student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, and designs beads, beaded dresses, beaded shoes and beaded brooches. Her unique and creative designs made with exotic and colorful beads comes in regular and luxury styles.
Report by Jacob Koudoyo